Book Review: 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher

13 reasons why

‘If you hear a song that makes you cry and you don’t want to cry anymore, you don’t listen to that song anymore.
But you can’t get away from yourself. You can’t decide not to see yourself anymore. You can’t decide to turn off the noise in your head.’ – Hannah Baker

I have never been more fascinated by a novel or the way it builds suspense, its unusual format or the dual narrative. Veronica Roth take note! This book took me a while to read and it’s not because it was difficult to read. I just wanted to make sure I took in everything. I was genuinely holding onto each page and when the end came I felt like I had been as much a part of the story as the characters. 13 Reason Why is the debut novel of Jay Asher, this book was published in 2007 and I would recommend it to mostly a Young Adult audience. I would also like to mention that this article/book can be triggering so if you are going to carry on reading this post or you want to read the book – this is me making you aware. 

Plot: Hannah Baker, our dead protagonist who leaves behind a box of tapes addressing 13 people who she feels contributed to her decision. However since she is dead the narrative voice when Hannah isn’t speaking Clay Jenson’s, an all around good guy and Hannah’s crush is the narrator. Hannah’s tapes allow her to talk about a subject that it very challenging, but very necessary to discuss: suicide.

I have read a mixed bag of reviews on Goodreads many of which start with ‘I hate/dislike this book… because the reasons Hannah uses to kill herself aren’t justification enough… I don’t believe nobody noticed she wanted to kill herself…’

However, I believe this book is great for YA readers. It may have its flaws but they are outweighed. Asher creates a space for teenagers to talk about a difficult subject, he also allows the audience to see the books mantra ‘everything …affects everything.’ If nothing else, for every person who has read this book it has evoked an opinion from them, caused a reaction, made them think about their actions in the world and how they influence others. Although many people have criticised that they don’t believe Hannah’s reasons to be strong enough to have committed suicide I think this is an ignorant thing to say. Something that doesn’t affect one person may affect another.

On the Mind website there is a list of suicidal warning signs to watch out for, they are:

  • stressful events such as failing exams or being made redundant
  • experiencing bereavement or loss
  • feelings of shame
  • isolation or loneliness
  • loss of self-esteem
  • giving away possessions
  • sleep problems – particularly waking up early
  • use of suicide-promoting websites
  • someone taking less care of themselves, for example eating badly or not caring what they look like
  • a sense of uselessness and having no purpose – feeling “What’s the point?”
  • someone talking about ending their life or about suicide in general
  • a marked change of behaviour – someone may appear to be calm and at peace for the first time or, more usually, may be withdrawn and have difficulty communicating.

In our daily lives we find it easier to get by justifying our lack of politeness or caring for humanity by dismissing emotions that don’t reflect our own. Other than screaming from the rooftops I don’t understand what Hannah Baker could have done to announce how redundant she felt at school and home. The reasons listed above are small and big things, but all of those signs were demonstrated by Hannah.

A lot of readers don’t like the unusual format but I think it is amazing and authentic and it mimics how small events in ones life don’t have to one after the other but still can be drawn together and still have an effect.

Reading this book really opened my eyes to how passive we all are in society. Many reviewers on Goodreads don’t believe that not a single person around Hannah noticed her most drastic step towards suicide, towards wanting attention. Her hair cut, changing her appearance, but tell me, can you name five people who have not read this book or this post that could possibly name signs of suicide in an individual. Many of us can’t. So I don’t think Hannah’s character was unbelievable, Hannah’s character was too real to digest. As a society and as people we need to be more present, this book acknowledges that and that can be a very uncomfortable concept. I know Asher wasn’t recommending death to those who have suicidal thoughts, just like Hannah isn’t condemned for having those thoughts. He is promoting that we need to become more aware of are actions and I believe that is a key lesson that every teenager and even adult needs to understand. In my humble opinion we need more book like this, which address real issues affecting teenagers.

If you suffer from suicidal thoughts or If you need someone to talk to, don’t forget you are not alone and there are many charities who have confidential services set up to talk to you and help you, I will put links to their pages here, here and here. Please know if you ever feel in danger from yourself or others you can call 999.